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Botswana president’s ‘crashed’ helicopter? No, photo from California, US

Was a crumpled helicopter in a photo shared on Facebook carrying Botswana’s president Mokgweetsi Masisi when it crashed?

On 29 June 2019 the site Zimbabwehuchi reported that Masisi’s aircraft had crashed in Botswana’s second-largest city.

“A helicopter carrying President Masisi is reported to have crash landed in Francistown. The president is said to be safe,” the report reads.

A photo of a crashed helicopter soon spread on Facebook, with the claim it was the craft involved in the incident.

‘Immediate precautionary landing’

Zimbabwehuchi cited the Sunday Standard, a Botswana publication, which broke the story on its Facebook page. The 20 July “crash” was reported in other Botswana media, and in news outside the country.

But there was no crash.

Botswana’s government Twitter account tweeted an explanation of the incident. “The office of the President and the BDF wishes to inform the public that a BDF presidential helicopter carrying His Excellency was forced to make an immediate precautionary landing while taxiing at Francistown airport upon arrival from Mathangwane at 1730hrs today 20th July 2019,” the statement reads.

“While taxiing for landing at Francistown Airport the pilots reported an engine fire indication whereupon they promptly executed an engine shut down and landing on runway 13 at the airport.” 

The president and other passengers were unharmed.

Crash in Hayward, California

And a Google reverse image search reveals that the photo circulating on Facebook comes from a video of a helicopter crash in Hayward, in the US state of California. 

A training flight went wrong at Hayward Executive Airport on 15 July 2019, killing a flight instructor and injuring a student.

The helicopter’s registration number – N144TG – is more evidence that the craft is not from Botswana. According to the UN International Civil Aviation Organization, each country identifies its civilian aircraft with aircraft nationality marks. The helicopter that crashed in Hayward has a registration starting with N, which means it was registered in the US. – Vincent Ng’ethe


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